BACKGROUND Militants from the Islamic State group have waged an aggressive social media campaign. They have released statements with detailed information on conquests and battles, and posted high-quality videos that often provide visual proof of their activities in regions that have suffered a media vacuum recently as the risks have become too great for journalists. In Syria, two American journalists were beheaded by the group in the past month. The killings, posted on militant websites, were shot in high definition, featured embedded soundbites from Obama, and used wireless microphones to amplify statements from the masked, English-speaking militant and his victims. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Chappatte from NZZ am Sonntag, Zurich shows an Islamic State Recruitement [sic] Center. A potential recruit is telling the recruitment 'officer', "I can do Flash, video editing and beheadings."
COMMENTARY The cartoonist highlights the fact that today's Islamic terrorists are technologically sophisticated as well as being barbaric.
NOTES 1. Adobe Flash is a multimedia and software platform used for creating vector graphics, animation, games and rich Internet applications that can be viewed, played and executed in Adobe Flash Player. 2. The word 'recruitement' is spelt wrongly in the cartoon — there is no 'e' after the 't'.
A six-year-old girl from Virginia becomes the youngest person to compete in the National Spelling Bee. Tara Cleary reports.
TRANSCRIPT REPORTER: Lori Anne Madison prepares to hear her first word in the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition. At six years old, she's the youngest ever qualifier in the contest and one of 278 competitors. Spelling Bee is a big deal in the U.S. and for some, the anxiety is palpable. But others have learned to take the angst in their stride. ADAM FERRARI, CONTESTANT FROM NEW YORK: "I am a little nervous, only because I don't know which word I'm going to get, but once I get the word, I'm very calm, I think of the word in my head and I say it letter by letter." SHEENA WANDIA CHEGE, CONTESTANT FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: "I just try to help make myself relax before I spell my word and take a deep breath and then after I spell it, and I get it right then all the nervousness goes away." REPORTER: In the end, it was the crop of a bird that got the better of Madison. The champion speller will walk off with $30,000 in cash and other lucrative prizes. Tara Cleary, Reuters.
COMMENTS 1. The correct spelling is 'ingluvies'. 2. To find out more about the National Spelling Bee watch the wonderful documentary Spellbound. You can view extracts on YouTube if you can't get hold of the DVD.
A government official conducting the 'happiness survey' asks the Seven Dwarfs (from the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs): "Would you describe yourself as happy?" One of the dwarfs replies, "No, I'm Grumpy".
The joke is that one of the dwarfs is actually called 'Happy' (see here for full list of names). However, the one that answers is called Grumpy, and grumpy also means 'bad-tempered and miserable'. So the cartoonist plays on the words 'happy' and 'grumpy' as names and adjectives.
SPELLING See here for a discussion of dwarfs vs. dwarves as the plural form of dwarf.
School pupils will be penalised in exams for poor spelling, punctuation and grammar under a sweeping overhaul of the education system, the Telegraph reveals. Full story >>
VOCABULARY A mark is a point that is given for a correct answer, or for doing something well in an exam or competition. A mark can also be a written symbol such as a letter that indicates how good a student's or competitors work or performance is. • 82 per cent is considered a “good mark” in the Queen’s history department.
Miss Spell's Class (geddit?) is a spelling game in which you pit your spelling skills against the most commonly misspelled words on Dictionary.com. Quickly decide whether each of 20 words is spelled correctly or incorrectly, as speed and accuracy count to get to the top of the class! Both the game and the dictionary are also available as free iPhone/iPod Touch apps.
This latest post in a series about iPhone/iPod Touch apps for English learners (see below for previous posts) looks at vocabulary and spelling apps. Although there are quite a few apps for preparing SATs tests and the like, there are very few, if any, specifically for EFL/ESL. Here are a few worth checking out.
• Word List 101 ($0.99) Over 1800 words, their meanings, synonyms and examples of usage on flashcards. The words tend to be the sort you need for admission tests (GRE, GMAT, SAT), and some would flummox many native speakers, e.g., abrade, gainsay, pellagra.
• Vocabulary Cartoons ($0.99) Uses mnemonics based on humorous cartoons and rhyming words to present 580 words. Once again, some words are ones you do not come across every day (peccadillo, chattel, bilk). A free 'lite' version is also available.
• My Word Coach ($4.99) Offers a fun and challenging way to improve verbal skills through a series of engaging activities and exercises. Activities include word recognition, spelling challenges and vocabulary definition, including 16,800 words from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
My Word Coach also adapts its difficulty level to match your skills, and monitors and rewards your progress to help you express yourself better.
• TOEIC Master Vocab Guide ($5.99) Contains over 2,500 vocabulary items drawn from past papers. All words come with detailed definitions, explanations, IPA & example sentences. Other features include:
British and American pronunciations of all headwords in real native voice
Random quizzes drawn from the vocabulary dataset, giving you unlimited practice
Detailed score display & analysis to help you to review & remember
Bookmark function allowing personal notes on searched words enabling you to better organize and centralize learning resources
History to let you easily keep track of searched words
A new report has found that sending text messages can help a child's reading ability and learning, rather than hindering it as previously thought.
The use of "textism" abbreviations such as LOL (laughing out loud), plz (please) and xxx (kisses) by children can indicate successful development of reading and writing ability, a study has revealed.
Researchers found that children who use textisms are unlikely to have trouble learning to spell or read, and a child's use of abbreviated terms can be used to predict the progression of their reading ability.
Experts have previously expressed concerns that using text abbreviations will shorten children's attentions spans and erode literacy.
The study, carried out on a group of 8-12 year-olds over an academic year, found that older children used more textisms, which could mean that some abbreviations require more sophisticated literary skills. Full story >>
Traditional spellings could be killed off by the internet within a few decades, a language expert has claimed.
The advent of blogs and chat rooms meant that for the first time in centuries printed words were widely distributed without having been edited or proofread, said Professor David Crystal, of the University of Wales.
As a result, writers could spell words differently and their versions could enter common usage and become accepted by children.
Within a few decades, the spellings favoured by many internet users could replace the current, more complex versions, he said. Current spellings were standardised in the 18th century with the advent of dictionaries.
It could mean that internet slang - such as ''2moro'' instead of ''tomorrow'' or ''thx'' for ''thanks'' - may enter into mainstream publications. Full article >>
COMMENTS I think there's a key difference between "2moro", which still sounds like the word it represents, and "thx", which is an abbreviation, like Xmas.
Although The Times 2010 Spelling Bee Championship is only open to full-time pupils in schools in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, anyone can practise their spelling with a great range of games on the Spelling Bee website.
COMMENTS A useful feature for learners is the "Word Help", which gives you clues about the word you've been given to spell.
LESSON IDEA Get your students to challenge each other to head-to-head games (they'll have to register for that).
The Sun reports that Gordon Brown "left a dead war hero's grieving mother in tears by sending her an error-filled letter of condolence in which he even mis-spelled [sic] their name."
In the letter, Mr Brown: SPELLED Jamie incorrectly and then corrected it by scrawling over the last letter. COMMITTED four other spelling mistakes: Greatst for greatest, condolencs for condolences, you instead of your, and colleagus for colleagues.
He also wrote the letter "i" incorrectly 18 times - mostly by leaving the dots off them but once by using two in "security".
And he ended with a repetition - writing "my sincere condolences" and then signing off "Yours sincerely". Full story >>
COMMENTS The Sun calls the letter 'shameful'. In a statement, Downing Street said that the prime minister "would never knowingly misspell anyone's name", which is stating the bleeding obvious. Gordon Brown's poor eyesight might be a mitigating factor as far as the handwriting is concerned but doesn't really excuse the spelling and grammar errors. By the way, The Sun misspells 'mis-spelled' (there's no hyphen), so they're not perfect either.
TRANSCRIPT FIRST MAN: Hey, aren’t we all in the same English course ?
FIRST WOMAN: Oh yeah. How’s it going?
FIRST MAN: Not bad—except I sometimes have trouble with my grammar, isn’t it? I mean, sometimes I perfect but other times I don’t, won’t they?
SECOND MAN: See, I’m alright with my grammar. My problem is spelling. I can’t spell to save my loaf.
FIRST WOMAN: Yeah?
SECOND MAN: Yeah. I have to rely on the spell chalk on my compluter.
FIRST WOMAN: Well, you know, look at it this way. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t eat it too. You know what I’m saying?
SECOND MAN: No, no, not really.
FIRST MAN: Oh, I think that she sometimes has trouble mixing metaphors, aren’t she?
FIRST WOMAN: Yeah. Sorry you guys, I’m always crying over spilt chickens before they’re hatched.
SECOND WOMAN: It’s alright for you all, I’ve got a very small vocabulary.
THIRD MAN: What’s that like?
SECOND WOMAN: It’s alright for you all, I’ve got a very small vocabulary.
THIRD MAN: That’s OK—I have problems with my emphasis.
FIRST WOMAN: Your emphasis?
THIRD MAN: Yes, my emphasis on different parts of the sentences. In my job that can cause a lot of awkwardness.
SECOND MAN: What do you do?
THIRD MAN: I’m a speech therapist.
SECOND MAN: A peach therapist that can’t spike priperly. Surprised your boss hasn’t sucked you.
SECOND WOMAN: It’s alright for you all, I’ve got a very small vocabulary.
THIRD MAN: Can I make a suggestion? Why don’t you purchase a dictionary—you’ll save yourself a lot of embarrassment.
FIRST MAN: I’ll tell you what. Why doesn’t we all try studying together, isn’t it? How doesn’t next week sound, didn’t we?
SECOND MAN: Grape idea.
THIRD MAN: Fabulous.
FIRST WOMAN: Yeah, you give ‘em an inch, it’s worth two in the bush.
SECOND WOMAN: It’s alright for you all, I’ve got …
ALL: Shut up!
FIRST MAN: Isn’t it!
LESSON IDEAS 1. Give students the transcript and ask them to correct the mistakes (marking the correct stress on the words in bold). 2. Use the video to introduce the topic of word stress. 3. Use the video to introduce a lesson about proverbs.
British undergraduates are nearly three times more likely to make errors in English than those from overseas, according to new research.
A study of written work produced by final-year students revealed that, on average, they had 52.2 punctuation, grammatical and spelling errors per paper compared with just 18.8 for the international students.
Spelling errors included "flourescence" for "fluorescence", "alot" for "a lot", "seperate" for "separate", "yeild" for "yield", "relevent" for "relevant", "introduications" for "introductions" and "pail vains" for "pale veins".
"There were hundreds of cases of disagreement in number between subjects and verbs (such as 'male sterility are useful', 'fertility in most breeds have low heritability')," added the research. Wrong plurals – such as varietys, two theorys and the two hypothesis – were common, it added.
Grammatical errors included "done by my partner and I" and "a women".
On punctuation, it added: "Semicolons were often used to introduce lists. Very few students used colons.
"Some never used possessive apostrophes, and there were many apostrophes used in non-possessive plurals – 'the cows rectum' and 'the harem's of seals'. Full story >>
COMMENT What do you expect from science students?
FOOTNOTE Listen to an interview with the author of the study from Radio 4's Today programme.
Last night I went to see Inglourious Basterds, the new movie from Quentin Tarantino. Reviews have been generally positive (89% on Rotten Tomatoes) but some critics panned it, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The film, set in the Second World War, involves a Jewish-American revenge squad (led by Brad Pitt) intent on killing (and scalping) as many Nazis as possible in German occupied France. Historical realism is not a concern!
WHAT I THOUGHT At two and a half hours the film is far too long and very uneven, but I can't say I was bored. Christoph Waltz is brilliant as the evil, polyglot, Jew-hunting SS Colonel Hans Lander (he won the Best Actor award at Cannes for this role), and there's plenty of trademark Tarantino humour and dialogue. There are also some very gruesome scenes—be prepared to close your eyes if you are squeamish. So it's no Pulp Fiction, but it's certainly not a total disaster either. Here's the trailer:
FOOTNOTES 1. One interesting feature of the film is that the actors speak the language they would 'in real life'. So we hear English, French, German and even Italian. The use of these different languages is integral to the plot, especially in the gripping opening chapter (the best part of the film). 2. The title of the film was inspired by Italian director Enzo Castellari's 1978 Dirty Dozen-like war film The Inglorious Bastards. However, Tarantino's film is not a remake. (Source: Wikipedia) 3. To date, there has been little explanation of the title spelling (in English, the correct spelling would be "Inglorious Bastards", without the extra u in Inglourious and with an a instead of an e in Basterds). When asked, Tarantino would not explain the u and said, "But the 'Basterds'? That's just the way you say it: Basterds." He commented on The Late Show with David Letterman that "Inglourious Basterds" is the "Tarantino way of spelling it." (Source: Wikipedia)